Growing Group of Doctors Talk Climate With Their Patients

by Miro Korenha and Alexandra Patel

When you visit your doctor it’s usually to remedy something that’s bothering you or a routine preventative visit, but during those visits has your doctor ever talked to you about climate change and how it might be affecting your health? Even if your doctor hasn’t, a growing number of physicians are connecting the effects of climate change to the deteriorating health of their patients and want their profession to address climate risks with patients. 

What’s Going On?:  Health concerns arising from climate change range from heat-related illness and injuries or deaths from dangerous weather events to infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks, illnesses from contaminated food and water, and even mental health problems resulting from a warming planet. 

Doctors Connect the Dots: In a survey asking physicians if patients are being affected by climate change, 76% responded yes to air pollution-related health risks, 63% to allergic symptoms, 45% to heat effects and 57% to storm-related injuries. However, despite rising health concerns, only 31% of Americans believe that climate change impacts them personally.

A Need For Change: 70 plus medical and public health groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, issued a call to the current administration, corporations and leaders to recognize climate change as a health emergency. The group called for a transition away from fossil fuels as America faces what they deem as “one of the greatest threats to health America has ever faced.”

Why This Matters: From more frequent and deadly heatwaves to longer pollen seasons and even deteriorating nutritional value in our crops, climate change is undoubtedly affecting human health and our ability to thrive. As NPR reported, “the World Health Organization calls climate change “the greatest health challenge of the 21st century,” and a dozen U.S. medical societies urge action to limit global warming.” Unfortunately, the problem is that individual humans can’t limit their exposure to climate change, that’s why it’s important that physicians and their trade groups in Washington become a political force for federal climate action as well as have earnest conversations with their patients about the health risks of global warming.

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